I agree that childhood obesity is an important issue that we need to tackle, both in Scotland and across the United Kingdom. In Scotland, 29% of children aged 2-15 are considered at risk of being overweight or obese.
The UK Government has taken action to curb childhood obesity, including through the introduction of the soft drinks industry levy, which forms part of a strategy to reduce the amount of sugar used in products popular with children by 20%, either through cutting sugar levels, making portions smaller, or encouraging lower sugar alternatives. Sugary drinks are the single biggest source of sugar for children, and it is vital, therefore, that we reduce the sugar content of these drinks.
Likewise, the UK Government has taken action to restrict the advertising of less healthy food to children. There is a total ban on the advertising of less healthy food during children’s television programmes, on dedicated children’s channels, and in programmes deemed to have a particular appeal to children under 16. There are also further restrictions on advertising content for both broadcast and non-broadcast media – for example, promotional offers may not be used in less healthy food TV adverts targeted at pre-school or primary school aged children.
Much of the responsibility for addressing childhood obesity also rests with the Scottish Government, since healthcare and schools are both devolved issues here in Scotland. Unfortunately, the SNP-led Scottish Government’s approach to public health has been characterised by a lack of joined-up thinking and a failure to deliver.
My Scottish Conservative colleagues in Holyrood have developed a healthy lifestyle strategy for Scotland, concentrating efforts on the early years of life. This would include, among other proposals, making physical activity a core part of education from pre-school onwards, and a review of the nutritional value of the food served in schools.